Benbria Evolves into Social CRM

Marketing has never been so complicated and social media has only taken something which was difficult and added levels of complexity. Recently at ITEXPO in Austin, Texas, TMC hosted its first CMO Summit and the consensus at the event was that complexity is out of control. How do I deal with the physical and virtual world while adequately communicating with customers the way they want to be contacted was a common theme.

At the expo I met with Andrea Baptiste President and CEO of Benbria, a company which got its start in the outbound notification space. She followed up the discussion with a visit to TMC headquarters yesterday where her team and I had a chance to get a sneak peek into the future of her company.

They are transitioning from an outbound notification company to one which is blending in social CRM as it looks to help companies listen to social media and respond to it effectively. The company has built a social media engine whose purpose is to help companies amplify positive comments and rapidly respond to negative ones.

Andrea Baptiste President and CEO of Benbria discusses her company’s activities in the first quarter of 2010

They tell me this multimodal platform will help companies more effectively communicate with customers while effectively closing the loop on problem situations.

The closed loop aspect is intriguing because as we know it is one thing to listen, another to acknowledge and something even more complex to ensure you have solved a problem to the satisfaction of the customer – or at least done your best.

Moreover, they are extending their outbound notification system originally targeted emergency notification in the education market to allow companies to more effectively communicate with customers regarding the status of activities like truck rolls. One of the most hated parts of dealing with providers of broadband, telecom and TV services is the dreaded four-hour window in which you are captive in your home. By integrating Benbria technology, companies are able to communicate with customers in a manner which gives them more control. Or at least they get the feeling of control as they get more exact information regarding order status, etc.

One other discussion point was how the company’s technology can be used to proactively notify customers of trouble. For example receiving a text message that the company is aware of a broadband outage followed by regular updates and an ETA of when the situation will be resolved.

There are a few other drivers for Benbria’s business such as business continuity which has become a bigger factor for organizations after the recent slew of power outages and hurricanes in the US. Moreover, in general, there is a heightened sense of immediacy among the world’s customers, including their desire for increased transparency. Finally, customers are adamant that they control the communications medium whether it is SMS, phone, Twitter, Facebook or whatever else they feel they want to use.

In short, there is a customer revolution taking place and companies need to be ready for it. This rang especially true when one of the participants in the meeting, Bob Young, an advisor to the company said, “Social media empowers customers to have an exponential voice that can be dangerous to business – more than ever before.” He is right and how companies deal with social and the evolving needs of customers for the rest of this decade will likely determine their competitive standing. At last count there are around 200 social media monitoring tools you can use but as you may have surmised, Benbria would like to be the company which helps your company manage this process effectively.

They will be out with a more formal announcement soon and they tell me some very large retailers have been impressed with what they have seen so far. When I hear more, I’ll be sure to share. Be sure to set your social listening tools for my future thoughts. smiley-smile

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